Sunday, November 18, 2012


Fall is always busy at the Evans house and being in Canada is no exception!  I am having a hard time keeping up with the schedules and laundry, let alone this poor, neglected blog.  

We started the season out with our very first visitors to our new location!  Chris' mom and Stepdad, better know as Nana and PopPop arrived in Edmonton at the very end of September.  after picking them up at the airport, we loaded the car down with luggage and our monthly Costco haul and headed up to Ft. McMurray.  The car has never been so full!  There were things on the roof and strapped to the was a little Beverly Hillbillies-esque.  all that aside, we made it home in one piece and with new wildlife pictures to show for it as well!  We had our first look at Wood Buffalo, which are slightly different from their Plains Buffalo counterparts that we see in the US.  These homely, yet magnificent animals were almost hunted to extinction and are now a protected species.

The grandparents arrived during the busiest week of our Canadian adventure to date.  Lacrosse started back up and I was in full, crazy President mode and both of the bigger kids started skating lessons.  This took the schedule from spending 3 evenings a week at the community center for Chloe's dance classes, to five nights a week averaging about 4 hours a night!  Needless to say, they didn't see too much else while they were here!  We did find time in all of the uproar to have some beautiful family photos taken in the leaves.  I am hoping to find a few moments to have some of them enlarged and framed for the walls.

It was a lovely week and it was so nice to see familiar faces!  We were sad to see them go and it appeared they took fall with them, because about a week after they left, the snow started and it has been  winter ever since!

Halloween was spent Trick or Treating with about a foot of snow on the ground!  That didn't seem to slow the kids down any!  They were out in the cold for hours obtaining loot!   I guess that creature comforts don't matter when there is candy involved.  Aila was very excited about Halloween this year and came back with more than her share of sugar after only about a half an hour on the prowl.

The holidays are just around the corner and this coming Thursday, we will be the lone Americans on our street celebrating Thanksgiving, but we are looking forward to our turkey and traditions and celebrating all that we have to be thankful for.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ask Jody

Moving anywhere is hard, becoming an expat is even harder.  Making a life on unfamiliar ground is intimidating to even the strongest of people.  Everything is different  and unknown and a bit of a challenge. The key to survival is to find good friends and use them to help navigate through your uncharted waters.  I am lucky enough to have found a living, breathing compass; when in doubt, I Ask Jody!

Let me introduce you to my good friend and  coach on Canadian life,  Jody.  She has since our first meeting extended her hand not only in friendship but herself as a source of information.  I am so blessed to have this fabulous pharmacist turned stay at home mom in my life!  She is warm, funny, practical and is a endless store of knowledge.  She is showing me the ropes and I would be lost without her.

Most people have a question and do a web search....I just Ask Jody.  Forget Google, it can't tell you which doctors are good and taking new patients, where to have your kid's birthday party, what you actually need to survive winter here or where to buy corn muffin mix.  The list of questions I have asked is long and I see no end in sight.  When I set her phone ringing it is always answered warmly and with a willingness to help.

There are times I am sure that I have made her crazy with the endless questions, some of which may be trivial, but there has never been a time when she hasn't tried to answer them on her own and if she doesn't have the answer, she asks around to help me find it.  She still answers my calls, even though she knows the questions are never going to end.  You would think after all these months I would be out of questions and that all of the preparation prior to moving would have eliminated the need to have a Jody.  Not even close!  Every day I find something or something finds me that has me running for the phone.  

Jody is not only my source on all things Canadian, she is the person who makes me feel not quite so lonely and out of place.  We enjoy each other, we laugh, we talk...that is the other key to surviving this life, connection.  Friends make all the difference in this experience.  My good friend and fellow expat, Joanne gave me wise advice; keep a bottle of wine, tea and baked goods on hand and invite everyone you meet into your home and life, because you will need friends if you are to be a successful expat.  She was so very right.

Of the many ways to answer a question, solve a problem or to gain a better understanding, without a doubt, the most fun and efficient way for me is to Ask Jody!  Chris, too, is finding the simplest of answers to my Canadian survival questions, is to respond "Ask Jody!"  I am so glad to have a Jody to ask!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Unexpected Events

Long ago, my very good friend Joanne, who is a fellow expat, told me that one of the hardest things about the expat life is that life happens while you are not there.  People you love will marry, have babies and pass away without you being there for these momentous and life changing events.  She was right.

This past weekend my best friend’s husband left this world unexpectedly and I was not there when she called and needed me.  I managed to get on a plane two days later and held her hand through the grueling week of planning and putting him to rest, but my heart breaks over the fact that when I was most needed I was 3,000 miles away, instead of around the corner. 

Being at home was so wonderful and I feel almost guilty for enjoying any moment of my time spent in Houston.  But I must say, as we drove through the gates of our neighborhood and past all of the places that made up the days of my life, my heart was at peace and at home.  To see the faces of all of those I love so much was an unexpected pleasure and I love them even more for being able to smile and even laugh through the tears.  It was one of the hardest weeks of my life.   Leaving broke my heart.  Saying goodbye was devastating and the thought of once again being so far away when they still need me so much bothers me to the depths of my soul.  I wonder if the benefits of this life truly outweigh the price….

Today as I write this I am on the plane headed back to Connecticut where I unceremoniously dumped my children on my mother, who has been my savior through this week, so that I could be  the friend that I have always strived to be.  She has seen the kids through vomit, head lice and separation anxiety and deserves canonization for her work while I was away.  I am blessed to have such a wonderful family.  I will spend the next two weeks making it up to her before I leave them with her for a week’s planned vacation with Chris.  I only wish that I could send my overworked mother on one too.

I will leave you with a thought:

“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”

-          Abraham Lincoln

Make yours count.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I Pledge Allegiance....

Today is 4th of July, here it is just July fourth.  A semantic difference you might say, but for us on this day it is a difference that is felt deeply.  This is the first fourth in my life that I have not spent on American soil and it is much harder than I thought it would be.  We have discovered that nothing makes a bigger patriot than being an expatriate.

It is difficult to put into words how it feels to be living in a country that is not your own.  Canada is very similar to the US in many ways and I am sure that these feelings would be even more pronounced in many of the other spots around the globe where Chris could be working.  It saddens me that when my children go to school they do not say the Pledge of Allegiance and the flag that flies is not the Stars and Stripes.  I come from a military family, we are born patriotic and I am proud to be an American.  I was blessed to be raised in the greatest country on earth and every day I miss it.  While hospitable and great in it's own right, Canada is not our home and we are but guests.  This experience is teaching us not only to embrace and respect other cultures but to value our own as well.  We take our country and all it has to offer for granted, we forget the fundamental reasons it exists in the first place.  I encourage everyone to take a moment and consider how lucky we are to be American.

That said,  Pledge Allegiance and be proud, be grateful.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Air Adventure!

The adventure has now led us up into the atmosphere!!  This weekend we, along with our new friends the Sabines, took an aerial tour of our new home to celebrate Father's day and both of the dad's upcoming birthdays.  What an experience!

We loaded up all of the kids, strapped everyone in to a 9 passenger prop plane and took off!  We toured the plant sites where Chris and Doug work, the forest and rivers and our little dot on the map.  It was amazing to see everything from such a new perspective.  We truly are a lone town in the middle of nowhere! Once we left town, there was literally nothing but trees as far as the eye could see.  You could see the little rivers that flow into the Athabasca are almost black naturally from all of the oil that is in the ground here.  That explains why it looks so dirty!  The plants and mines were huge and busy, even on a Saturday!  It was interesting to see all of the work it takes to end up with gas in your car at the end of the day.

The big boys were more excited than the little ones, it was almost like Christmas for them!  The kids were engaged for a while and then started to become bored once they didn't see their schools or landmarks they recognized.  Jackson fell asleep about halfway through, not sure how as it was a loud and bouncy ride!  Aila's reaction was less favorable, she cried every time the plane dipped, bounced or turned.  Poor Jody became air sick from all the bouncing and will tell you not to eat blueberries before flying!  I am sure the pilot was never so glad to see an hour come to a close....

We ended the day with a cook out at our house and backyard badminton.  It was a wonderful day spent with friends and I hope that we have many more adventures like this one!

Friday, June 1, 2012

May-The Long and Short

May was the longest, shortest month of my life.  In many ways it flew by and in others it was endless.  May is usually full of the hustle and bustle of the end of school, my volunteer commitments culminating, sports winding down and the beginning of summer.  Not so for these transplanted Americans!  May here means another month of school, the height of lacrosse season and my duties as team manager are in full swing.

It was a bittersweet month for me.  I have found in my lacrosse experience some new and wonderful friends and I am blessed to have these women in my life.  I was desperately in need of adult conversation and a feeling of belonging, you all know I am adrift without people!  The flipside is it makes me miss everyone at home even more!  It was hard to read all of the Facebook posts about all of the fun and precious moments had by everyone in this last rush before summer!!  

While bittersweet, May has been busy!!!  We traveled 6 hours for Jackson's first lacrosse tournament last weekend and are prepping for another next weekend.  They played hard and well, even though we had no wins, they held their own against teams that have games every weekend.  These tournaments will be the only games our boys play as Ft. McMurray's league does not have enough kids to have multiple teams per age group.  I am a proud mommy!

We also spent a weekend in Edmonton shopping for summer clothes and furniture for the house and of course my list is still a mile long, there is never enough time!  I miss Houston every day, but especially when I need to shop!  

Our adventure continues to be less adventure and more logistics.  The issues this month, school and medical care!!!  We discovered that the schools are quite a bit behind where the kids were at home and were very concerned about them falling so far behind that when we get home to the states there will be no catching up. We said the word HOMESCHOOL a lot.  Thank goodness we found what will hopefully be a good solution to the problem.  On every Friday these children have off, and let me tell you there are MANY, the kids will do lessons online from a homeschool curriculum that is US based. They will also put in an hour of lessons after school every day.  We are going to try this for 6 months and will then evaluate their progress.  Please pray this works.   Medical care...pediatricians see kids, all kids, right?  Wrong!!!  Here kids see a GP unless they are referred to a pediatrician for medical problems.  That so didn't work for me, so I jumped through tons of hoops but emerged the victor!  Thanks to my wonderful pediatrician in Texas and a helpful secretary at the doctor's office here, my kids will be seeing the pediatrician ALL the time!  Now if only I could convince them to give shots at the doctor instead of at Public Health...not looking forward to that.  

On the home front, the boxes still abound.  My goal of having them gone this month has not been reached and I feel an overwhelming sense of frustration.  I need less baby, more husband in order to make a dent in the mess.  Neither is going to happen anytime soon.  :(  Chris continues to work long hours and it hampers my ability to do much more than the daily stuff.  This is why you nest while pregnant, because nothing gets done after!   Do not change nests within the first 2 years unless you want to lose your mind! (which I cannot do, because according to my new found friends there is not a shrink in town!)

 We are heading into June warding off insanity and looking forward to more adventure!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.  Last night while I tossed and turned I was thinking about what Mother's Day means to me.  It is a day for me to celebrate my amazing mother and hopefully for my children to spoil me for  a few minutes, but even more so, a day for me to celebrate all of the reasons I LOVE being a MOM.

This Mother's Day is a unique one, it is the first in our new country, coming in on the heels of the most stressful move we have ever made.  I have been guilty of letting the stress get to me and I am afraid I have spent time on frustration and sadness that would have been better spent with my kids.  This year I am choosing to use Mother's Day as my New Year's.  I resolve to count my blessings instead of my disappointments.

I am so blessed to have three beautiful and amazing children.  Every day they give me a reason to be the very best version of myself.  Even when the best version of me is decked out in sweats, I have the best job on earth.  My children have taught me so much, if I teach them half as much as they have taught me, I will have been a success.  They have taught me the value of patience, to find joy in the small things, to take life a day at time, to love without measure...I could go on for days.  They are my greatest pleasure.

To see my list of Reasons I Love Being a Mom click below.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The First Month

One month ago today, we drove away from our home and our life as we knew it and started this journey. It has been a month full of ups and downs and as I sit here looking back I can honestly say up and down are tied.  If you had asked me the first week if I would say that, the answer would have been emphatically, "NO!"

I have tried to keep this updated, so this won't be as much story as impressions.  Our family, while absent Chris a lot of the time, is stronger. We are Team Evans and we will emerge the victor.  We only have each other and making this work is taking a concentrated effort on everyone's part.  I am sure as time goes on it will get easier and feel like less of a battle, but for the moment, we are fighting to find our way.  Starting over is hard under the best of circumstances and these are less than ideal.

While less than ideal, I am finding the good in all things.  Every day the kids get a little more settled.  They are enjoying school and have already made friends.  The bonus to that is that they are making friends from all over the world.  They have classmates from China, India and Pakistan, just to name a few.  How amazing that they have the opportunity to experience other cultures in a personal relationship.  The doorbell is ringing and the outside time is on the up, all good things!  Jackson has started lacrosse, another sport to add to the list and while a little behind and as always, the littlest, he is enjoying it and improves at every practice.  Chloe is really enjoying school, the arts are more emphasized here and many of their lessons are taught through drama and artistic endeavors.  She is thriving and also happily ahead in most subjects, so school is a battle we are not fighting!  Today for their religion class she was the angel sent from heaven during the Resurrection of Christ in a drama performed for the whole school.  While she had no lines, she was great!  Aila is crying a little less every day, but is still her high maintenance self.  :)  I am grateful that the whole day is no longer a scream fest!  She is talking more each day and seems to enjoy the boxes and overall chaos, more stuff to get into!

On the grown up front, I have met a few of the neighborhood moms and they have all been very nice and helpful in directing me on where to go for what I need.(All in Edmonton, but hey...)  Chris is enjoying his work and seems to be impressing the powers that be.  The house is coming along, slowly, but I am hopeful the boxes will be gone within the next month and I am trying not to focus on the fact that it has NEVER taken us a month to unpack before.  All things in time....

Our overall Canadian experience has been limited to the daily life trips, the grocery, school, the bank...I am hoping this summer when Chris' hours get a little more normal, that we can explore our new country and learn what Canada is all about.    The daily life is a little different, a little frustrating at times, but we are finding our rhythm.  I will never get used to the ridiculously slow speed limits, the lack of Mexican food and the inconvenience of driving 4 hours to go anywhere(that I want to go), but I am loving the lack of homework, the opportunities for experiencing new things and the closeness our family is sharing.

Let's see what the next month brings!

Monday, April 23, 2012


This weekend was the first in a long line of trips that we will be making to Edmonton over the course of our 3 years here.  It was a LONG, BORING drive, but so worth it!!!  It was wonderful to shop, eat out and just be surrounded by urban odd comment, I know.

For the sake of full disclosure, let me say, we do have stores here...just not the variety and caliber that we are used to.  We also have restaurants, second verse, same as the first.  It is also prohibitively expensive to eat out here.  I would also classify our environment as suburban, but without the city.

 For me, Edmonton was Heaven.  Being able to walk into any store I wanted was sheer bliss.  Being able to buy things  that were not groceries or something I had to settle for was sublime.  I felt like a new, old me!  Putting a dent in the long list of items needed for the house was almost secondary to the joy I felt at being able to do so.  I discovered a few stores I had never been in before.  Ladies, Bowring has beautiful decor items!!  Home Outfitters is Bed, Bath and Beyond essentially and I left there with the same disappointment that I leave BBB every time!  :)  Home Sense is exactly like Home Goods and it was my favorite.  I left there with a haul!  4 rugs, 2 hampers, 3 huge baskets and a frivolous chair for Aila, which she LOVES!!!  We also left Ikea, the storage king, with an entertainment/storage unit for the basement and a wardrobe for the guest room.  Last stop, Costco to stock the pantry and freezer with slightly cheaper food...the Sequoia has never been so full!!  We had stuff strapped to the roof!!

Not to disappoint, in typical Evans family fashion, Jackson threw up all over the soda aisle at the Super Walmart!  His concern, his new shoes!  :)  I keep saying I HATE Walmart!

Happily, a dent was made and hopefully another will be made when Chris is off again.  At this rate the house will be put together when it is time for us to move on to whatever is in store for us next.  I am trying not to let that ruin my lingering retail therapy high....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back to School!

It's Back to School time, again!   Yesterday morning started the kids journey into Canadian life and I am happy to say that both had a good day. I am sad to report that there is no photographic evidence, I was informed that that would be highly embarrassing.

 We got to school after a crazy morning of missing ice packs, dead car batteries and the general chaos of trying to find a routine.  Jackson is in Mrs. Dumais' class and we left him with a few small tears but to his classmates already welcoming him to his new school.  Chloe, the big fifth grader, is in Mrs. Gautier's class and was basically annoyed that we had walked her to class at all...but we gave our goodbyes anyway and left her in the hands of the other students.  

Now, of course, there had to be a little drama,after all, this is me we are talking about.  Just as I am getting Aila down for her nap the phone rings and it is the Catholic Board of Education!  Jackson had thrown up all over the floor after lunch.  Back to school I go, again!!!  I pick him up and load him in the car and I said "How was your day?"  His response was "It was great until the puking thing and get  this is only the FIRST day of school and already girls are sending me notes wanting to date me!"  :)  Things are back to normal....But, as most of you know, Jackson is "Laying off girls until I (he) get(s) back to America".  We will see how this plays out!

Home for an hour and we loaded back up to get Chloe from school...I never thought I would say this, but I MISS CARLINE....gasp!  This pick up system isn't a system at all, it is MAYHEM.  There are cars everywhere, in the parking lot, on the street, cars blocking cars that are parked in the parking lot and kids running willy-nilly everywhere!!!  Someone is going to perish, no doubt.  We made it to the car in tact and headed home to Chloe reporting that all was well and she had already made a friend!  Thank God!

Score one for the Evans Family!  We survived the first day in a new school in a new country and everyone came home happy!  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The First Week

I am behind, so bear with me...

Our first week in Canada was a rough one.  The movers came on the first and after a full day of unloading our house was full of boxes...and nowhere to put the contents!  I have said before, the homes here are much smaller and this one, while lovely, is not well laid out and lacks storage(a man designed it!), so the task of emptying the boxes is proving to be a challenge.  The house currently looks like an episode of Hoarders and I see no end in sight.  It is making me more than a little nuts.

Adding to the insanity, Chris went directly to work on the second and he is gone roughly 15 hours a day, for 12 days straight.  Me, 3 kids and boxes-ALONE.  I cried, a lot.  Topping that off, Aila was vomiting all last week.  Needless to say, I accomplished nothing and it was a truly awful week.  Nothing makes you want to pack up and go home like that.  Thankfully, God saw my need and Chris was off unexpectedly Easter weekend.  Not as much as I wanted got done, but a small dent was made and I was so happy not to have to spend Easter alone.  I was heartbroken at the thought of him missing Easter, for all of us.

It was also a hard week for the kids, the adventure ceased to be one and there was and still is a lot of homesickness flying around(for kids and adults alike).  It is so hard to leave your home and start again, especially when everything is so different!  You wouldn't expect Canada to be different, it is just like America, right?  WRONG!!!!   Where we are is very remote, we are 4 hours away from the next spot on the map-literally.  The town itself is not overly small, just off on it's own, with nothing to do, nowhere to shop and miles away from the world.  Our highlight last week was going to Walmart, y'all know I HATE Walmart.  The food choices have also proven to be quite a issue.  Jackson may never be the same...after the chicken nuggets were brown inside(I don't think they use breast meat) he sent an email to my mom the subject line read "SOS",  the content "Get me outta here, this place is a dump".  Unfortunately, my sentiments exactly...

.But, it's time to put Debbie Downer away and focus on all the good things.  We are all together, we are healthy and IT WILL GET BETTER!!!  Life is what you make it and we are going to make it good.

At Last-Day 6

We finally arrived!!!  After 6 days in the car, we pulled in to Ft. McMurray around 2 in the afternoon.  Thank God.  It was a long week, full of ups and downs and we were ready to be out of the car and in a room for more than a night.  All in all, I would say the trip was a success.  We made it without any major mishaps, no blood was shed and we arrived ahead of schedule.  Now the real adventure begins.

Welcome to our new home and our new life in Canada.  This is where the action will be taking place, our home in Ft. McMurray, AB.  Hopefully there will be more ups than downs and I can keep all of you coming back for more!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

You (We) Had A Bad Day-Day 5

Day 5 was the worst day of our journey hands down.  We were all exhausted when we got up, breakfast took and hour and a half, the gas station had no ice (in Canada of all places....), our credit card was denied(Chris forgot to call and say we would be out of the country)...all of this before 10 am.  OMG.  The day continued downhill from there.  Day 5 was the day the whole family decided that we were all sick of each other.  Enforced closeness is a great thing, for 4 days.  The bickering followed us to Calgary where we met our shipment at customs.  That was the smooth point in our day, everything passed inspection and was admitted into the country.  Big sigh of relief.  After hearing the good news, we loaded back up and drove some more!

We finally landed in Edmonton, where the badness continued.  The hotel, was for lack of a better term, ghetto....a hundred and fifty dollar a night ghetto, complete with bums in the parking lot.  At 7 pm, it was too late to cancel so we had no choice but to grin and bear it.  Our other small highlight of the day was the mall.  AMAZING!!!!  We had dinner and rushed through a couple of stores before the mall closed at 9, a shame, a place like that should be open 24 hours a day for maximum shopping pleasure.  Back to the ghetto we went and all children proceeded to have a meltdown of epic proportions.  Canada bashing went on for a good hour, as did the tears.  It was heartbreaking to see them so upset, especially when you yourself are dying inside to and you have to put on a brave face.  We talked it through and focused on the positives and reminded them and ourselves that every day would not feel like that day, that normalcy would come and while it may never be HOME, we would be happy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Here Comes Goodbye-Day 4

Today we left Billings on a mission-to cross the border into Canada.  The drive today was more of the same, beautiful but boring.  I will say I now understand why they call Montana "Big Sky Country".  The sky somehow seems closer and seems to go on in an endless span of blue.  I have also discovered that there are 10 cows for every person and that half of the state resides in Billings...the other half are certifiably nuts, in my not so professional opinion.  Living alone on a prairie somewhere is not the charming picture we all know from Laura and Little House on the Prairie.  It honestly looks like a reason to drink, heavily.

The end result of our mission left me feeling sad.  Today was the last day I will  live on American soil for 3 years, the last day I will see our flag never truly understand the depth of the love you have for your country until you have to leave it.  I am proud to be an American, flawed though it may be, I can honestly say that there is no greater place on earth. 

For every goodbye there is a hello and today we said hello to our home for the next while.

And tomorrow we drive some more!

On the Road Again...Day 3

Day 3 had us leaving Denver and driving all the way to Billings, MT.  577 miles of driving through beautifully boring plains with mountain views and the occasional interesting rock formations.

Prairie Dogs were the scientific subject of the day...there are scads of them all across Colorado and Wyoming.  The little beasts eluded my picture taking mission....but if you're wondering, they are rodents, there are 5 genus', they eat grasses and are outlawed as pets. 

We crossed into Wyoming around mid-morning...

Day 3 was a the day of animals.  We chased antelope for the whole day, I was determined to capture them on film and I FINALLY won!

I wish I could give all of you a tale of excitement, but the reality of the day was a little on the boring side.  We drove and drove and drove, breaking it up with Brain Quest and a few stops to stretch our legs.  The road in front of us went on and on and looked like this:

We found Montana around 7 pm...and drove some more!

Day 3 ended in a heap of exhaustion in Billlings.  Next stop, CANADA!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Home, Home on the Range to Rocky Mountain High-Day 2

Day 2 proved to be a much more interesting drive.  We started our day leaving Amarillo and crossed over into New Mexico, a first for every member of the Evans family! 

New Mexico was an educational experience!  We actually used our geographical terms; plateau, butte, and canyon.  We saw science class come to life with herds of wild antelope, wind turbines and a sand storm.

Social Studies made an appearance in the form of trains...we saw more trains in a few short hours, than I believe I have seen in all my life.  We got the conductor of one hauling tanks for the Army to blow his whistle for us!  It was amazing to see how much we rely on these huge iron beasts for the things our country needs.

With 200 miles to go...

Colorado was not quite what we expected.  The mountain views as we crested the hill coming into the state were breathtaking and everything you would imagine Colorado to be.  When you think of Colorado you think green forests, huge mountains and a Kodak moment at every turn, the road into Denver turned flat and brown quite quickly. The Mile High City was a welcome sight with a mall that warmed this shopper's soul but unfortunately did not have the credit cards smoking as well....but tomorrow is another day!  :)

God Bless Texas-Day One

Yesterday was one of the hardest days in the life of our family.  We drove away from our house, our friends and our life.  Somehow, without us even realizing it, Texas became not the place that we lived, but our HOME.  We left in a sea of Texas sized hugs and Texas sized tears....and then we drove and drove and drove.

Houston to Amarillo with 3 kids and 2 dogs, not the stuff that dreams are made of.  Despite the raw emotions and the most awful scenery known to man, we made it in tact and without bloodshed.  The conversation centered around how sad we were to be leaving, but how blessed we had been to have had the time that we did and our hopes to return to our home at the end of our adventure.

We are not Texans by birth(with the exception of Aila), but we are Texans at heart and I hope that we can bring a little bit of Texas to Canada and leave a lasting impression when we go.  We will still say y'all, I WILL learn to make fried pickles, wear our bling with pride and say hello to everyone we meet! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Impressions

The adventure has reached Canadian soil...

Last week I spent 6 days in what will be our new home.  My eyes first landed on Ft. McMurray, AB at 1 o'clock a.m. after a grueling day of delays and flights with an infant in tow, so I must admit, I didn't see much.  When I awoke later that morning it was to the sun beginning to come out, at about 9a.m.!  I think I can get used to that, as I am not much on mornings!  However, the downside is that it is dark by about 6 p.m.  The landsacpe itself was quite beautiul, white with snow, hills, a large river and lots of trees.  In that respect it felt a lot more like home than Houston, while a great place to live, it doesn't earn points on the pretty scale.

My first day was filled with house hunting.  Let me say at the very begining, be grateful for what you have and the American lifestyle.  I expected to find homes on large lots and with nature all around given the remoteness of the location and the sheer size of Canada itself.  The American missed that one...I discovered that the houses are situated very close together and that people live on top of one another, quite literally.  It is not at all uncommon for the top levels of a home to be occuppied by one family and the basement by another.  I found this to be more than a little unappealing....Not only are the living quarters close, but small by our standards as well.  Now, I openly admit that everything is truly bigger in Texas, but these homes reminded me more of starter homes and they are for established families.  Wait until you hear the prices!  A 1800 sq. ft. newer home is pushing the million dollar mark!!!!  My house in Texas would be worth close to 2 million....CRAZY!!!!!  As we are not Canadian citizens it is unadvisable for us to purchase, so we will be renting...for $5500/month.  (Close your mouths, flies will get in)  Day one was definitely an eye opener!

Days 2 and 3 were spent about the town and getting to know the shopping....what can loosely be called shopping anyway.  There is a Walmart, several groceries(which I will expand on later), a sporting goods store and a small mall for lack of a better term.  Not as bad as it could be, but I will be making a pilgrimage to Edmonton(home of the LARGEST mall in North America) 4 hours south rather often in an effort to maintain my sanity!  Now for the grocery experience...I HATE to grocery shop and this trip about had me in tears!  I paid $10 for 5kg bag of flour(roughly 11 lbs.), saw the largest jar of Cheez Whiz on the planet(a Canadian staple, eeww) and was unable to find a can of Rotel!  The metric measurements made my head hurt and it was all so expensive!!!  I do not want to ever go back!  Thank God Chris does most of the grocery shopping!

We also visited the community center and I must say, it is impressive!  I was so worried that we would be spending the long winters indoors with not too much to do, this trip alleviated that fear.  It houses a library, 3 pools, water slides, a gym, 3 ice rinks, a concert hall, a daycare, numerous classes and more.  I was happy to see it busy and full!  Days 2 and 3 receive a combined score of 6.5.

Day 4 was back in the house trenches and an overall stressful and unfulfilling experience.  More of the same, different day.  I would not recommend this to anyone. 

Day 5 brought no progress on the house hunt and the sinking feeling that I would be coming home with no house to go to and a moving date a few weeks away.  Tears and yelling ensued...

Day 6 packing to come home and no signed lease-despair.  But God once again came through for me.  At 9 p.m. just hours before we were boarding the midnight flight home, our prayers were answered and we signed a 3 year lease on the only house I liked during the hunt.  SUCCESS!!!!!

Now sitting back at home on my couch and after a week of sleep in my beloved bed, I can honestly say I think it's all going to be OK.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Home Fires

Home Fires...a highly romanticized concept of keeping a light burning for your loved one until they return to you.  Reality is it is a HOUSE FIRE, it is some poor spouse sending up an SOS, a desperate attempt to get some help and attention!

Those of you who know me know that I am not a whiner, I am a survivor.  I take what life throws at me and somehow manage to keep my composure...I think my crown is a little tarnished.  We are in the front half of week two without Chris and I think that I just may have lost my mind.  This isn't my first time alone, we do this often, but I must say flying solo and planning an international move is a challenge that even the most organized of souls would find impossible.

My very dear friend Joanne, who is also living the expat life gave me some excellent advice long ago when we were asked to put our name on "THE LIST" of those willing to take international assignments.  She told me if I had any doubt in the strength of my marriage not to do it.  She was right.  If my marriage was less than what it is, it would not survive the stress.   This week alone has brought more tears and drama then I think I have seen from my children in the last 6 months, the baby hasn't slept since Chris left and I am wading through logistics like I have never seen before just to look at a house up there.  A happy and contented wife I am not.  I am afraid my poor husband is married to a lunatic.  He is handling it well all things considered...

My home fires are burning, the house is in FLAMES! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I Will Survive...

For those of you who know me, hello my friends!  For those of you who don't, welcome and I hope you find this helpful, entertaining or perhaps both.  I felt compelled to begin this journey into blogging for several reasons;
1:  To keep all of our friends and family actively engaged in our life abroad.
2:  To give myself a place to vent and rejoice in what I am sure will be an experience of a lifetime.
3:  To perhaps give a little insight for the next family in our shoes.

And what exactly are "Our Shoes"?   " Our Shoes" are moving from Houston, Texas to Fort McMurray, Alberta, CANADA.  In less than 1 month we have gone from a settled family living in Houston for over 3 years(which is something of a record) to negotiating employment terms, putting our house on the market and basically throwing our home into complete chaos.

My title for this post is the current theme song of my life.  "I Will Survive...".  The process of moving to another country is the most challenging thing that I have ever done.  Every day I wake up I feel like a general going into battle and at the end of the day I fall into bed knowing that the war is far from over. 

The biggest battle...sadness.  Everything will get done and we will wind up in Canada at the end of it all, but the leaving is brutal.  This week everyone in our house has ended up in tears over something related to leaving our life here.  We have been so blessed to have our time here filled with good friends and wonderful experiences.  I can only hope that the next stop on our journey will be as kind to us.